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Pawlenty’s Freedom First team

Paul Demko//July 2, 2010

Pawlenty’s Freedom First team

Paul Demko//July 2, 2010

Courtesy of Tennessee Republican Party
Courtesy of Tennessee Republican Party

Just over a year ago, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced that he would not seek a third term and began seriously testing the waters for a potential 2012 GOP presidential bid. Perhaps most significantly, in October he established the Freedom First PAC to solicit donations and dole out contributions to Republican candidates across the country. The organization has since raised roughly $2.5 million.

Pawlenty’s also assembled a team of seasoned political advisers. A detailed piece will appear on the PIM website later today examining Pawlenty’s efforts to build a national political brand. But here’s a look at key players working with the Freedom First PAC.

Vin Weber, co-chair: He spent a decade representing Minnesota’s Second Congressional District in Washington. Since then he’s become a redoubtable Beltway operator in his post as a managing partner at the lobbying firm of Clark & Weinstock. In 2008, Weber was a top adviser to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign.

William Strong, co-chair: The Morgan Stanley executive is a longtime major GOP fundraiser. He was a top rainmaker for the presidential campaigns of George Bush and John McCain.

Phil Musser, senior adviser: Since 2007, he’s been the president of New Frontier Strategy, a Washington, D.C., public relations firm. Prior to that he was a top advisor on Romney’s presidential campaign and served as executive director of the Republican Governor’s Association. Musser’s presidential campaign roots go back to Bob Dole‘s run in 1996.

Terry Nelson, senior adviser: He initially served as campaign manager for McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, but departed after it struggled to gain traction. Previously Nelson worked as political director for the Bush-Cheney re-election team in 2004 and as a top official at the Republican National Committee. He’s originally from Marshalltown, Iowa.

Sara Taylor, senior adviser: She served as director of the Office of Political Affairs during the Bush administration and gained notoriety for a central role in the controversy over U.S. attorney firings. Since then she’s started a political consulting firm, BlueFront strategies. Taylor’s also an Iowa native and did her undergraduate work at Drake College in Des Moines.

Brian Haley, finance director: Served as deputy finance director for McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. Haley then took on a similar role for McCain’s Country First PAC. Previously he’s served on the University of Texas System’s Board of Regents and spent time in China working for Dell, Inc.

Brian Hook, policy director: Worked in a variety of roles for the Bush administration, including stints at the State Department, the United Nations and the White House. Prior to that Hook was former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad‘s legislative liaison. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Michael Toner, attorney: An election law expert, he previously served as chairman of the Federal Election Commission. Toner’s resume also includes stints as the top attorney for the Republican National Committee and President Bush’s 2000 campaign.

Alex Conant, communications director: A St. Paul native, he worked as press secretary for the Republican National Committee during the 2008 election cycle. Conant’s also a veteran of Norm Coleman’s 1998 gubernatorial bid and 2002 Senate campaign. Campaigns & Elections magazine recently named him a “Republican Rising Star.”

Sarah Crawford, New Hampshire adviser: Two years ago she served as deputy campaign manager in the Granite State for McCain’s presidential team. Crawford previously worked on Craig Benson‘s successful 2002 New Hampshire gubernatorial campaign. She currently runs b-fresh consulting in Manchester.

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